I've been trying to get a growth rate for commercial space flight, as it may be amenable to something like Moore's law. Wheras government funded things are prone to politics so can't really be rellied upon. Having such a number will make it possible to have more realistic timelines for things like colonizing moon/mars, mining asteroids etc.

There was a previous post about general statistics for space launches, which included both government and commercial launches: What is the success/failure ratio of space bound rockets?

It is obvious from the chart that the "space wars" drama from the 60's to 80's artificially inflated the amount of orbital launches.

The only other metric I was able to get is "space vehicle and missle manufacturing" which is also heavily interlaced with government funded military operations: http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=843

So I'm wondering if anyone knows or can come up with statistics for just the commercial space industry, unmanned such as satellites has been ongoing for a while. Though manned (commercial) space flight is relatively recent, I think the first was when someone paid multiple millions of dollars to visit the ISS, and more recently the Virgin Galactic. SpaceX while a great innovator, many of their launches are still government contracts, so not all of their launches can be attributed to purely commercial purposes.

Also correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the first "commercial" or non-government funded space-probe is light-sail ( http://sail.planetary.org ), which has yet to launch. The closest other thing I know to a "space-probe" is space burial, Celestis offers sending cremated remains to the moon and deep space.

  • $\begingroup$ One thing's for sure: Moore's law won't apply. Moore's law is ultimately about the ability to do more with the same amount of hardware (an area of silicon, in this case). Rocket and satellite manufacturing don't work like that. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prepared a 2015 forecast document which contained global historical commercial launches and launch forecasts. Here is the chart they provided:

Combined 2015 GSO and NGSO Historical Launches and Launch Forecasts

GSO is geostationary orbit and NGSO is non-geostationary orbit.

I haven't been able to find the raw data set used for this chart yet, but it should give you an idea.

Here's the full FAA report.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Who can see the Iridium spike! It is like an Iridium flare, just in the data). $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ That is a good overview of the activity in the United States. Though there are also Russian, European, Chinese and Indian launches possibly amongst others. $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2016 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganStreondj The document said the figure was global unless I misread. The FAA can produce reports about more than the US. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Apr 30, 2016 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I reread, the figure is global but it doesn't include suborbital $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Apr 30, 2016 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ oh excellent, thank you. I'll use that then. I was simply surprised by the low number, so I had thought it was just US. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2016 at 1:32

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